Measuring Innovation – what really matters?

by Janet Sernack

I attended a fabulous organizational culture conference recently in Melbourne that took the audience right back to culture, climate and engagement measurement basics; and reinforced their importance as critical success factors in any organizational change or development process, and their role in leadership capability building and innovation programs.

It was powerful to see how the links and connections between Organizational Culture Audits & Diagnostics, Climate and Engagement Surveys were expertly made.

Which, as many of us know, cause confusion globally among organizational development practitioners about what really matters when effecting an overall change or business transformation process. This seems to be the case when innovation is involved as the desired strategic & systemic change, or business transformation lever to improve organizational performance, competitiveness and growth, or to increase business value and sustainability.

What are the core keys to achieving successful outcomes?

People and organizations all have the Potential (the latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness) to change, adapt, innovate and succeed. What matters most are the Behaviours and Actions we enact to deliver the Results and the Outcomes we want to achieve.

The most significant impacting factor on our behaviours and actions are our “in the box” internal interpretations; which are indicative of our how our Needs, Values and Beliefs drive the mindsets we embody that generate the Meaning and Context we ascribe, unconsciously, to the world surrounding us.

This means that our Behaviours and Actions are the result of our habitual mindsets and of the meaning and context we apply when we also formulate critical business activities such as developing strategies, managing time, solving problems and making decisions.

We then apply our internal interpretation to the Results we achieve, as well our awareness of the core Beliefs that underlie them, which will impact as to how we “see” the world, in positive or negative frames. These factors impact significantly on our Potential to be, think and do things differently, or not, in the future.

Taking the key steps to achieve successful organizational outcomes

For organizations to maximize their Potential to succeed, they first need to clarify their organizational aspiration, or their ideal or desired future state. This involves qualifying and quantifying What it wants to achieve, and Why it wants to achieve it. It is also important to develop a vivid and compelling picture that illustrates what the Desired Organizational Culture might look, sound and feel like, and how Success could be described and measured.

  1. Clarifying the organizational aspiration

In the case of an innovation intervention, an organizational aspiration includes articulating;

An inspiring and inclusive Vision for Innovation, supported by a description of their organization when this vision is achieved.

Some of the language might include – being adaptive, collaborative, creatively confident, curious, courageous and experimental.

They might focus on creating a cultural environment where people have “permission” to be safely disruptive and provocative, to challenge the status quo, to fail fast to learn quickly, be vulnerable and bold in taking smart risks, be empathic and compassionate, and know how to maximize differences and diversity.

They might also create a BHAG for innovation, that is numeric and can be easily cascaded across the organization as a way of driving accountability.

A Passionate Purpose for Innovation, a compelling reason (necessity and possibility) as to why innovation is the most powerful and critical lever to pull for the positive changes they are seeking.

They might also focus on leveraging the culture to improve their people’s and customer’s experience, add value to the quality of people’s lives, be sustainable, and /or adopt a responsible corporate stance.

The Values for Innovation, supported by a set of clearly defined and desired mindsets and behaviours to guide people to co-create, enact and embody the vision, passionate purpose and strategies.

  1. Setting the organizational strategies

What matters next are the Strategies and Systems people are encouraged, rewarded and enabled to take, or not take, to deliver the Results and the Outcomes the organization wants to achieve.

In the case of an innovation intervention, people’s actions need to be guided by a very clear set of organizational Strategies, incorporating a Systemic perspective that embraces the people, process and technology factors in an innovative organization.

  1.  Making the innovation culture diagnostic links

Conducting the culture diagnostic enables an organization to assess “what is really going on” in their organization. This includes their levels of readiness and maturity for an innovation initiative. It creates the context for innovation and a common understanding of what it means.

It measures, quantifies and benchmarks an organizations ability to adapt and grown within that context.

It embraces qualitative research processes to identify, analyse and assess the supporting, inhibiting and causal factors in the operating and underlying needs, values, beliefs and mindsets on the change initiatives’ ability to be successful, or not.

In the innovation context, it can also incorporate and integrate human centred design thinking processes to identify the core people, process, artefact and technology problems that also impact on success.

An Organizational Cultural Diagnostic identifies the gaps between the ideal and current cultures; between what “should happen” in the future, and what needs to be done differently now to close the gap in terms of the current and desired needs, beliefs, values, mindsets and behaviours.

  1. Making the climate survey links

Conducting an organizational climate survey enables an organization to describe and measure people’s reactions to their experience of the current organizational culture, and it’s impact on them.

An Organizational Climate Survey is a representation of how people’s (and especially leaders) current operating behaviours and actions effect people.  It is an “effect” of the operating culture and does not indicate, or reveal the real, underlying root causes as to why people react in these ways.

It is a great and effective barometer of the organizational “mood” and of people’s behaviours and actions impact on overall performance, and not of the core drivers; needs, beliefs and values, driving people’s behaviours and actions.

  1. Making the engagement survey links

Conducting an engagement survey enables an organization to asses how people think, act and feel about how “things are getting done” in the organization, and how this impacts on their effectiveness and productivity in their roles. These typically encapsulate their range of reactive responses, or their experience of their employers Organizational Climate which is driven by the Organizational Culture and expresses this as an overall people engagement score.

An engagement survey score is also effected by people’s levels of personal alignment to the organizational aspiration; vision, purpose and values (cultural). It is also influenced by the level of permission they have to challenge convention, without punishment and retribution (climate) and by their intrinsic motivation; autonomy in their roles and their ability to learn and master new skills.

Here’s the point – culture, climate and engagement are symbiotic

  • How people are thinking, acting and feeling either inhibits or enhances an organizations ability to achieve its aspiration.
  • How people are thinking, acting and feeling cannot be influenced, or changed, without knowing what exact mindsets and behaviours they are demonstrating.
  • How people are thinking, acting and feeling cannot be influenced, or changed, without knowing exactly how these are impacting positively or negatively on people’s performance.
  • How people are thinking, acting and feeling cannot be influenced, or changed, without knowing exactly how these are impacting on an organizations abilities to achieve its aspiration.

Mindsets and behaviours seldom change without an understanding of the underlying root causes; people’s core and underlying needs, their implicit values and beliefs and how these result in “cultural norms” and send “messages” that impact on how people think, act and feel the way they do.

This is all illustrated in the diagram below – Success Spirals Culture, Climate and Engagement

So how can you successfully interconnect culture, climate and engagement?

  • To change the organizational culture its crucial to promote an understanding and acceptance of these key factors, to identify, make explicit and operationalize the core values and desired behaviours through leader’s role modelling and coaching people to embody and enact them.
  • To initiate and sustain the desired change and deliver the organizational aspiration, by “bringing to life” the positive beliefs, mindsets and behaviours as desired “cultural norms” as to the “way we do things around here”, and to acknowledge and reward people when they demonstrate them.
  • To ultimately transform the current “cultural norms” into the desired ones to close the gaps between the current and ideal organizational states to ensure that change gets successfully implemented.

Changing culture by changing climate

It is often easier to focus initially on changing the organizational culture (needs, values and beliefs) by changing the organizational climate (behaviours and actions) first. This initiates an initial and evidential step change, that needs to be supported by embedding the desired mindset changes.

Taking the first steps

  1. Clarify and share your organizational aspirations with your people; vision, purpose & values grounded in desired mindsets and behaviours.
  2. Assess, measure and diagnose your current culture, to identify the operating needs, values and beliefs and how these operate as “cultural norms” and get sent as “messages” in the organization, and identify and qualify their impact on overall performance.
  3. Identify the gap between the current or actual culture and ideal culture and build and implement a culture development plan to close them including how to lead and role model the desired changes.
  4. Monitor how these changes make people think, act and feel by regular engagement surveys/dashboards (as a scorecard, not as the solution).

It is not an easy journey, and it is a worthwhile and sustainable one, if we want to engage, empower, enable and ennoble people to be the best they can be, to make the difference we want to make in the world, in ways that are valued and cherished.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™ then join the next free monthly webinar in our Making Innovation a Habit Series and “Be-Come an Agility Shifter” – the emerging role for innovation leadership. Register now at http://www.imaginenation.com.au/free-monthly-webinars/

It’s on Thursday, 26th October 2017 at 11.00pm London, 12.00pm Amsterdam, 6.00am New York, 3.30pm New Delhi, 6.00pm Singapore, 7.00pm Perth and at 9.00pm in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

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janet-sernackJanet Sernack is an ICF ACC accredited executive coach, corporate trainer, group facilitator and culture and change consultant with some of Australia’s and Israel’s top 100 companies. She is the Founder of ImagineNation™ an innovation education company that provides innovation e-learning programs including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program™ experiential learning events including The Start-Up Game™. Follow @JanetSernack

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